|378: Holy Trinity, Norwich, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Requiem.
The church: Holy Trinity, Essex St, Norwich, Norfolk, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: An impressive flint building overshadowing a slightly scruffy housing area. Inside it was pleasantly bright and airy.
The church: The church is very close to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital and I understand a fair number of the congregation are hospital staff. It runs "Trinity Link", a youth outreach and Bible study group.
The neighbourhood: The parking is terrible!
The cast: Diana Timms, plus someone else who was never introduced.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The body of the church was almost packed, although there was a gallery upstairs and I have no idea how full that was. I would guess there were 100-200 present. Very impressive for a rainy Sunday evening!
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was grabbed as I went in by a very friendly chap with a "church warden" badge and a bundle of leaflets. As I was a little late, I was hurried in, but he took care to make sure I was seated happily.
Was your pew comfortable?
Very. Nice padded chairs in a pretty purple colour. This was good, because we were there for an hour and a half.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I was late.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The NIV was used and heavily referred to, with much rustling of pages as the congregation flicked to the right spot. Hymns were from Mission Praise.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ. Competently (if slowly) played.
Did anything distract you?
The preacher was rather short and, from my perspective, her head was completely hidden behind a very large microphone. All I could see were her waving arms, pearls, and the occasional halo of hair.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Definitely at the evangelical end of the Anglican spectrum. The feel was of God as a buddy, rather than as an object of awe and reverence.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 The delivery was excellent, enthusiastic and lively. If the sermon had been half the length it would have scored 9 or even 10.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
They were part way through a series of services focusing on Joseph. The theme of the sermon seemed to be that God has the power to transform despair into joy. However this rather got lost in the very lengthy retelling of the story of Joseph and Pharaoh's dreams. It finished by drawing a parallel between Joseph the saviour of Israel and Jesus the saviour of the world.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The congregation was very diverse. It's easy, in an unfamiliar church, to feel out of place because you haven't guessed the dress code just right. Here, it felt as if anyone young or old, smart or scruffy would be welcome.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Minor niggle, but I wanted to sing a bit faster than the rest of the congregation, who seemed to want to go faster than the organ. This made the (lengthy) hymns seem rather laborious. Also there was a very strong emphasis on everything being directly part of God's plan. The idea that God points his finger and instantly imposes suffering or blessings on us individually in order to make us more fit for his work is one that I personally find quite offensive. When added to the philosophy that we should therefore be grateful for that suffering, I start to get annoyed.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I wasn't given a chance to look lost. I was accosted by three different people, introduced, chatted to, and shown around. I was really bowled over by the warmth and genuineness of the welcome. This is something that many churches could learn from.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I'm not a coffee drinker, but the tea was fine. It was served in real mugs and there was cake!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 The worship was a bit too evangelical for me, but the welcome and warmth of the congregation more than made up for that. My need for a sense of majesty and timelessness that a more liturgy-based service provides were not really met. But there's a good chance I'll drop in again anyway.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It was refreshing to be around people who have such a sense of easy familiarity with God.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I come from a fairly high church background. The laid-back, almost homelike feeling of the service is something I'll remember.